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Howard Lake and Waverly natives graduate from military academies
Monday, July 2, 2012

By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, MN – Two young men from the area have accomplished something few even consider attempting – graduating from a military academy.

Jake Young, a 2008 Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted graduate from Waverly was recently commissioned an officer in the US Army at West Point Military Academy, with a degree in mechanical engineering.

He will begin flight school July 25 in Fort Rucker, AL, two weeks after marrying Brittany Drew of Winsted.

After 12 to 18 months of training, Young hopes to be flying Black Hawk helicopters for the Army.

Daniel Kubasch, a 2007 HLWW graduate from Howard Lake, was recently commissioned as an ensign from the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT with a degree in business management with an emphasis in human resources.

After marrying Megan Lund of Waverly, the young couple moved to Port Huron, MI where Kubasch is stationed on the US Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock.

As an ensign in the Coast Guard, he will be serving as a deck watch officer, giving the commands to drive the ship.

Although the young men did not have to pay for their education at the military academy, active military duty is required upon graduation.

Young will be required to serve eight years of active duty after he finishes flight school, and four years in the reserves.

Kubasch will be required to complete five years of active duty and three years in the reserves.

Both young men were assisted in their placement at the academies by 1986 graduate of West Point, Chip Guggemos of Winsted.

“Both young men [did] very, very well at their respective schools, and our communities should take a great deal of pride in their willingness to serve and lead during a time of national need,” Guggemos said.

Jake Young

“I’ve wanted to fly ever since I can remember,” Young said. Upon entering high school, he began looking at the Naval Academy.

Then, as a sophomore, HLWW Principal Mike Day realized Young’s interest in the military academy, and suggested he talk to Guggemos, who introduced him to the Air Force Academy and West Point.

Young applied to attend the summer seminars at all three academies (Naval, Air Force, and West Point), and was accepted to the Air Force Academy and West Point summer programs.

Young attended the summer seminars between his junior and senior year of high school, and found he was more interested in attending West Point.

So began the application process, which can be quite daunting. Young was grateful to have assistance from someone like Guggemos along the way, he said.

In order to be accepted to a military academy, a nomination from a sitting US representative or senator must be received, and Michele Bachmann provided Young with his nomination.

Although it is tough to get accepted to West Point, “a lot of the things I did made me pretty qualified,” Young said.

For instance, in high school, Young was in baseball, football, and basketball, and the captain of each his senior year.

Academically, he graduated from high school third in his class, and he was also an Eagle Scout.

Days can be grueling at military academies. “The purpose of the institute is to commission officers into the Army that have been conditioned morally, ethically, and mentally for the Army,” Young said.

The young men and women at the academy wake up at about 6:15 a.m., attend classes all day, participate in extracurricular activities after classes, and then study before going to bed at about midnight.

“It wasn’t fun. Parts were fun, other parts were not fun at all,” Young said, noting the last two years at the academy were the hardest.

“It’s hard to excel and stand out, but it’s also hard to fail because of all the support you receive,” Young added.

The majority of the faculty at West Point are on active duty, and many are also West Point graduates.

The faculty give out home and cell phone numbers the first day of class because they want to see students succeed, Young said.

“Most of the people there have the same goal, and that is to serve the country,” Young said.

His favorite experience was attending the Air Force Academy during fall of his junior year through an exchange program. “That was probably the best experience I had,” Young said.

One of the extracurricular activities Young participated in was managing the women’s volleyball team, which made it to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament his sophomore year.

“I felt like I was given a lot of opportunities the first 18 years of my life, and I wanted to give back somehow,” Young said. “This, for me, was the easiest way to do it.”

Daniel Kubasch

Kubasch’s mother was a teacher at St. James Lutheran School in Howard Lake (she is now a middle school teacher at HLWW), and he was introduced to the service academies when he was about 12 or 13 years old, he said.

He liked the idea of serving his country, doing something good, and receiving a free education at the same time.

Initially, he wanted to attend West Point or a couple of the other academies. However, at first, he was rejected from all the academies.

Kubasch’s nominations from sitting US representatives and senators came from Mark Kennedy and Norm Coleman.

Kubasch was then planning to attend Gustavus Adolphus, and had offers to join Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) programs from several colleges.

“I wanted more adventure – to see more of the world and get out of Minnesota a little,” Kubasch said about his reluctance to commit to any of the ROTC programs.

Finally, Kubasch received an offer to go to the New Mexico Military Institute, a high school and junior college preparatory institute for the five military academies.

“This was more regimented and rigorous – more appealing to me than the ROTC program,” Kubasch said.

After a year at the institute, Kubasch re-took the ACT exam, received a higher score, and was accepted to the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT.

Although Kubasch originally had his hopes set on West Point, it was not until he was at the Coast Guard Academy that he discovered a great respect for it.

“The Coast Guard does so much with so little, protecting miles and miles of coastline with only 40,000 to 42,000 active duty personnel,” Kubasch said, noting the New York City Police Department is about the same size as the entire coast guard.

Kubasch was able to do many exciting things in his time at the Coast Guard Academy.

“For three summers, I was able to go to interesting places and work on a lot of interesting projects,” Kubasch said.

During the summer between his freshman and sophomore year, Kubasch was stationed in Rockland, ME for six weeks at a small boat life station, patrolling fisheries and lobster boats.

Kubasch spent the other half of that summer aboard the Eagle, a war prize from the Germans during World War II, which the coast guard uses as a training ship.

The ship traveled from Bermuda, up the east coast of the US, and then to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“It was a phenomenal trip. I got to see a lot of places I had never seen before, like the pink sand beaches in Bermuda,” Kubasch said, noting they hardly used the propellers on the three masted sailing ship during the entire trip.

The six weeks spent training and learning the fundamentals of old-time sailing on the ship were a good base for the technical world we live in now, Kubasch noted.

Between his sophomore and freshman years, Kubasch spent eight weeks as a cadre, initiating and training the incoming freshman.

He also sailed around Massachusetts and Connecticut in a small sailboat and went to Alabama for flight training.

The summer between his junior and senior year, Kubasch was an intern for the Coast Guard’s management department, working on an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) in Mobile, AL.

“This got my feet wet when it came to the Coast Guard’s UAS,” Kubasch said, noting that was the beginning of his senior year thesis.

“As a senior, we make our own senior design project, and I wanted to make a bigger impact on technology,” Kubasch said.

The last three years have been difficult for the US Coast Guard, with casualties and losses that could have been prevented using UAS, Kubasch added.

During his senior year, he and three other students created a minimal manpower and optimal operating structure for Coast Guard UAS.

“It looks like we made an impact. They will be looking at our project for deploying in the next three to four years,” Kubasch said.

While at the Coast Guard Academy, Kubasch also had the opportunity to be a part of the combat arms team, which is a marksmanship team.

“We compete against the other academies once per year,” Kubasch said.

One of the highlights of his time at the Coast Guard Academy was participating in the scholastic steel competition for the first time this year, and beating West Point. Kubasch was the team captain.

“When it comes down to the joint Service Academy Combat Weapons Competition, the Army and Navy always win, and the Coast Guard comes in second or third, but we always beat the Air Force,” Kubasch said about the competition.

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